Wednesday, October 31, 2007

everything in china is safe

So we are riding our bikes back home [to our apartment on the campus of Hai-Zhong Middle School,] having just finished dinner at You Yi Si, the only restaurant in town that serves western food of any kind—han bao bao (fried chicken sandwiches) and xiu tiao (French fries). And we are 2 of 4 foreigners in this whole town which by Chinese standards is a small farming town—not in any way a center of culture, though it does have this really rich, competitive, boarding school, where we work teaching conversational English to middle school kids.

Anyway, its midwinter and it’s chill and damp and we are headed home to our cold apartment on campus to get under our big heavy comforters and watch a pirated movie on my laptop. And, not surprisingly, we ride past some people shooting off fireworks. This happens in at least 3 locations in town every night when it gets dark enough. It’s one of the few things to do in town.

And I know the Chinese invented gunpowder for this exact purpose, and they know how to make them, the probably supply America with all of ours, but I’ve never 1) been this close to people setting them off, and I mean actual rockets that are red and green and explode in the standard bloom shape, and 2) seen one explode maybe 30 ft above an intersection where people are walking and riding their bikes and kids are playing.

And I know I should be more worried about the SARS epidemic that has just hit the news, or protecting my mental and emotional health which is strained living under a very stringent, repressive, communist government/school administration, or fearing that every one of my kids will have their beautiful, bouncy energy and curiosity for life squelched out of them through the mind-numbing educational system, but instead, I’m freaking out about the personal safety of the guy setting of fireworks with a faulty cigarette lighter on the street corner and whether the rocket will shoot straight up, or somehow angle itself toward my head.

I should feel exhilarated by the celebratory nature of these loud expressions of joy—I’m sure it’s someone’s birthday or some happy occasion for the family, but I can’t handle when everything reverberates and I feel like my chest is being knocked on and the shrapnel rains down upon us. It feels like a war zone.

But they tell us we are safe. So what can we do but believe them, even as all the evidence points to the opposite? Like the sign posted near the back gate of campus: “SARS: Smile And Retain Smile.” Gallows humor, maybe, but its better than crying every night.

2 comments:

Saunia said...

you know,
i never really understood why those fireworks shook you up so much. but i think i got it now....and it makes me understand for the first time why those damn blue angles jostled my heart so and so royally pissed me off.

after all the china shit, the exhaustion, the banquets and dragon dancing, homesickness, arguing with administration, unruley classes, morning fucking exercize music, after the hospital and your intimate knowledge of your body's vulnerability ... sheesh ... such a general assault to your self. and it makes sense that in some primal brain part those blasting sounds just triggered all that other offense to your safety and sanity and something had to break. just for a bit. but couldn't hold any longer.
i was breaking all along. every night with tears. and you were holding it together. breaks are necessary sometimes.

and then at the end of that summer last year. after that year. my lung, the move and start over, my mom. i heard that war-sound of fighter planes, and it set off some switch deep inside that couldn't take all the assaults.
more than anything i think the outside nature of the noise is helpful. to be angry and fearful of a solid tangible thing. rather than the murky unknown fear inside of you or me. be afraid and mad at the noise. laugh cry scream at the noise. that supposedly celebratory noise that hammers the already weakened chest. that has the nerve to point out how desperately assaulting life can be sometimes. how dare it explode all over you and me and all the other people in the street. HOW FUCKING DARE LIFE JUST ASSULT US WITHOUT WARNING WITHOUT PERMISSION JUST RAIN DOWN ON US FIRE. and we keep riding. through the debris and embers. and we get home. to some makeshift home. and we aren't really the same. because we know viscerally how thin the wall of our skin is. how close our chest is to collapsing. how weird it is that we continue on at all. that this rickity boat of our selves stays afloat--even in ornamental chinese rivers.
i love you.
and i almost love the fireworks and blue angels for their ability to let us out our fears and anger and confusion.
but really, i think that this is why i really love too loud live mosh pit raucous music. because it is a chosen snapshot of benign warzone sound and assault that lets me out all the rage and all the brokenness. out it. scream and push back at it. in a contained environment rather than the actually scary world of heartbreak and war.
yeah, you and me and kurt. need to outside some of that shit more often.
again--love. and thanks for posting your insides out.

rayvan said...

god damn. you said it. this is why i sharpie on my wrist WWKD (what would kurt do?) and now have a drumkit in my room. cou RAGE, babycakes.